Jeremy Roche, CEO of CODA Financials, ran into that problem when he told his IT department that the company would be building a new version of its ERP (enterprise resource planning) and accounting applications in the cloud on Force.com. But there was no other option for the company, which would have needed "50-plus developers," millions of dollars and two years to build the infrastructure to do the development that was required, he said during a presentation at Salesforce.com's New York event.
"I didn't want to have to talk to shareholders" about that, said Roche, whose company has headquarters in the U.K.
CODA repurposed some Java developers and trained them on the Force.com platform, since, according to Roche, the development model is similar to Java. It took less than a month to train them, and they completed Coda2Go in about six months. If the company hadn't used Force.com, "we'd still be building the infrastructure right now," Roche said in an interview.
Roche also addressed another chief complaint of cloud-computing critics -- vendor lock-in. Many people are not keen on the idea of turning over the management of their application code and development platform to one company when they're used to the idea of developing and maintaining applications on premise.
But whether his company built its application on Microsoft or Oracle or SAP, there would still be a certain amount of lock-in to that platform in terms of maintaining it over the years and depending on that vendor for upgrades, Roche said.
"You can't create a way of not getting locked into Oracle or SAP," agreed Narinder Singh, founder of Appirio, a Force.com customer based in San Francisco. Appirio provides consulting for companies about how to use on-demand services and offers applications that connect the dots between Google Apps and Salesforce.com.
Singh, who previously worked at SAP, said the biggest barrier to winning over chief information officers with the platform-as-a-service notion is to break through preconceived notions of how software should be built.
"I can't overemphasize that enough. You have to get to where someone will say, 'I've never seen enterprise software before' to win them over," Singh said.
Singh acknowledged that in the early adopter phase of platforms such as Force.com, new applications will inevitably be tied to Salesforce.com's salesforce automation service. But eventually, companies will start to see the value of building applications in the cloud that can stand on their own, and other traditional application-development companies like Microsoft will have to respond with their own platform-as-a-service offerings.
Another criticism of Force.com is that building applications in its Apex development language and on an intrinsically proprietary platform doesn't give developers as much flexibility in creating applications as they would have using on-premise Java or .NET infrastructure.
Jonathan Snyder, chief technology officer of Dreambulider Investments, agreed that "there are limitations" to writing applications on Force.com. But for the 10-person mortgage investment company in New York, the time and cost savings far outweigh those limitations.
"For us, we're a small company, we don't have the resources to focus on buying servers and developing from scratch," he said. "For us, Force.com was really a jump-start."